California Walmart workers get early start on Black Friday actions

The nationwide day of actions against Walmart planned for Black Friday got off to an early start on Tuesday when Walmart associated in Pico Rivera, California walked off the job. About 120 workers and their supporters carrying signs that read, “I’m (the name of the associate) and I’m on Strike” picketed the store.

Associates walked off the job to protest the company’s retaliation against Walmart workers who speak up for change on the job. Associates on strike said that they planned to strike on Friday as well.

“Today is one strike and some of us are going to strike on Friday,” said Walmart associate Victoria Martinez to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

The strikers were also protesting the way that store managers schedule work for Thanksgiving and Black Friday. ” I remember when (management) used to ask you if you wanted to work overnight for the Thanksgiving rush,” said Martinez. “Now they just schedule us for however they want, and we’re always told that if we don’t show up we can be fired.”

Martinez and her fellow strikers are members of Organizing for Respect at Walmart (OUR), a nationwide movement of Walmart associates who have been working to improve conditions on the job at the world’s largest retailer.

OUR and its supporters are planning 1,000 non-violent actions at Walmart facilities on Black Friday  to call attention to Walmart’s attempt to silence workers who speak out and take collective action for better working conditions.

“We’re not trying to shut down business,” said Yesenia Yaber, a Walmart associate in Chicago, as she explained the purpose of the 1,000 protests. “We are supporting our co-workers who speak out for better working conditions. These associates have been speaking out for changes that will help all associates help our families and make Walmart stores better places for our customers to shop.  Yet, Walmart reacts by attempting to silence them. No one wants to strike, we want to work, but we can’t continue under Walmart’s threats and retaliation.”

Walmart has reacted to the growing movement for change by blaming the protests on outside agitators. It recently filed an unfair labor practices charge against United Food and Commercial Workers for illegally inciting workers to fight for a collective bargaining agreement.

OUR members say that their primary objective is to improve conditions on the job and that they have the right to take collective action to do so.

“Walmart is doing everything in its power to attempt to silence those who speak out,” said Colby Harris, a Walmart associate in Lancaster, Texas near Dallas.  “But nothing—not even this baseless unfair labor practice charge—will stop us from speaking out.

“Unfair labor is working full time and living in poverty. Unfair labor is seeing your health care premiums skyrocket year after year. Unfair labor is being denied the hours needed to support your family. Unfair labor is being punished for exercising your freedom of speech and association.

“Walmart workers know what unfair labor is—because we endure it every day. So until Walmart listens to our concerns, we will continue to speak out. We will continue to stand up when Walmart attempts to silence those who speak out. We will continue to demand respect.”

UFCW has supported OUR’s efforts to improve conditions on the job at Walmart as have a number of community and labor organizations including Color of Change, National Alliance of Latino, African and Caribbean Communities, Interfaith Worker Justice, and the National Organization of Women.

These organizations and others will be joining the Black Friday protests. Activists of the Corporate Action Network are adopting stores where they will inform shoppers about working conditions at Walmart.

The United Auto Workers also posted a message to members on its website urging them to stand with Walmart workers on Black Friday. It reads in part:

While the  Walton family (Walmart’s owners) has the same wealth as the bottom 42 percent of American families combined, they pay Walmart associates an average of $8.81 an hour.

UAW brothers and sisters , Walmart workers need your help!

This  will be the first direct action many Walmart workers take, and they  will need support in their communities and around the country to back  them up. So let’s gear up and support Walmart workers across this country by joining with them in actions on Black Friday.

2 thoughts on “California Walmart workers get early start on Black Friday actions

  1. Will–Remind me what the NLRA rules are on non-union workers taking collective action. Are they protected only when they are protesting against retaliation, or are there other legitimate reasons, also?

    • Workers’ collective actions to improve working conditions is protected by the NRLA. This protection applies to union and non-union workers alike. The enforcement of the law is spotty, so the reality is that this protection does not exist for most workers.

      One collective action that is supposed to be protected is a strike against unfair labor practices. Workersmay strike against unfair labor practices. If workers engaged in an unfair labor practices strikereturn to work voluntarily, their employer cannotreplace them.

      There are other reasons besides retaliation for unfair labor practices strikes, but I think as a practical matter for non-union workers retaliation is the most clear cut abuse that can justify an unfair labor practice strike.

      For example, unions have called unfair labor practice strikes when employers have failed to negotiate in good faith, but since non-union workers don’t bargain collectively this reason wouldn’t be available to them.



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